Happy Birthday Dad.
Today is my father, Edwin Lynn’s, birthday. And probably his best present is his recently published book ‘Shorelines’. It’s a present for himself to see this distillation of a life’s work of insight and reflection come to reality. It is also a present to everyone who is inspired by the ocean and draws wisdom and serenity from it. As such, it seemed to be just right for the Maldives.
I grew up in a seaside town north of Boston, Massachusetts called Ipswich. It features one of the longest and finest beaches in the northeast USA…Crane Beach. It was there that my Dad would regularly brave the cold and sleep deprivation to catch a sunrise over the ocean. On a couple of occasions I was enticed to join this ritual lured more by the promise of fresh Marty’s donuts at the end than the celestial spectacle.
My Dad always favoured seaside holidays and during them got even more opportunity to watch the sunrise (or set on western shores). My Dad even got the opportunity to visit the Maldives when we took my parents to Conrad Hilton Rangali in 2000 (see photo below). Of course, one of the great luxuries of the Maldives is that you can easily watch both sunrises and sunsets!
In honour of ‘Shorelines’ and the lengthy, white sand Crane Beach that inspired him, today’s ‘Best of Maldives’ is its Longest ‘Shoreline’ or really ‘Beach’. A number of islands have long shorelines, but they interrupted by structures or rocks or something else blocking the way. According to Maldives legendary guru, Adrian Neville, Kuredu is “still the longest beach and so fine”. This assertion is confirmed by the island size data in the Maldives Complete database. Gan is a very long island, but the ‘resort’ beach is limited. Kuramathi and Palm Beach are also a longer islands, but the ‘beach’ is broken up by infrastructure and some inaccessible rock/coral croppings.
May your shorelines be as refreshing and inspiring as a Maldivian sunrise.
When people ask ‘What are the Maldives like?’, my first response is always, ‘You know those pictures of a tropical island that is a plot of sand with a single palm tree like in the cartoons? That is the Maldives. Just think of over a thousand of those.’
Well, of course, they are not all that miniscule, but it gets the notion across in a dramatic way. I find that I have to add a bit of hyperbole because most people struggle to truly get their head around the smallness of the islands. When you tell people the islands are small, they think ‘oh, probably takes just a short while to drive around.’ No, it takes a short while to WALK around.
But is there an island that actually fits that iconic stereotype. In fact, I use a photograph of such an island as the background to my About page.
It turns out the name of this dollop of sand is called…wait for it…One Palm Island. Not much in the imagination department, but I guess it is what it says on the tin. It’s just off the ‘coast’ of Soneva Gili about a few hundred yards into the atoll. The Soneva site describes the private dinner you can have there…
“Private dining on One Palm Island. Imagine a tiny strip of sand with one lone palm tree. Imagine the island twinkling in candlelight, surrounded only by the sea and the stars above. A private barbeque dinner on One Palm Island is an experience you will never forget.”
When it comes to Club Med Kani, it is not all go, go, go. But even if relaxing on the beach under the shade of a palm tree is your thing, then Kani does that ‘big’ too.
Palm vistas surround the island, but beach side is the most dramatic and about a half kilometre in length. Facing out onto the lagoon, they were planted years ago in striking, neat rows by the previous resident. Forget the thatches umbrellas peppering most resort beaches, this boulevard of palm provides the living, natural, towering shade for as far as the eye can see.
If 49 metres at Anantara Kihavah is not long enough (and you prefer your swimming in fresh water), then consider Shangri-La Villingili. Villingili is situated on the island of Gan which has 3 fresh water lakes including its largest, Hithadoo.
A rich tropical forest tapestry blankets Adaaran Hudhuranfushi with a colourful and quirky canopy. The sand paths have a grander arboreal arch to them than most islands.
And the diversity is stunning. There are several giant Banyans around the resort. Our favourite was the ‘Kasakue’ or ‘Screw Pine’ (see picture above). We see these all over the Maldives with their bizarre root systems reaching down into the sand giving rise to their nickname – ‘Walking Trees’. Being one of our favourite tree, we keep an eye out to them and some of the best examples we saw at Hudhuranfushi.
Another place where they had great selection was their resort garden (one of the biggest in the Maldives) where they features unusual specimens like the ‘Num Num’ tree which produces a fruit at the base of its trunk used for traditional cooking (see picture at bottom). A very appropriate name for a delicacy producing tree I’d say. Hudhuranfushi also has it’s own Banana Grove that features 7 different varieties of bananas.
My wife’s favourite was the abundant ‘Temple Trees’ that bloom all year round with white and yellow flowers (see picture directly below). They are called ‘Temple Trees’ because worshippers would pick the flowers and take them to temples as a part of Buddhist tradition in the region.
I’m not going out on a limb to say if you appreciate the bio-diversity of a thriving tropical forest, then Hudhuranfushi is a treeat for you (I am not ashamed of these puns).
One of the defining characteristic of the Maldives are their miniscule islands, but if such diminutive scale is too claustrophobic for you, then maybe you want to consider the other end of the spectrum. The largest resort island (the second largest island in the whole country after Hithado in the same atoll) in the Maldive archipelago is Gan at 2,256 square km. That compares to an average across all the resort islands of about 200k square metres.
Gan’ s resort is Equator Village. Gan also has an extensive history which includes a British naval base established there in World War II and an ancient Buddhist temple.
Many are attracted to the Maldives for the distinctively tiny croppings of land that make up the islands. No island is big enough for an international airport near the capital of Male (so they had to create a long, rectangular strip of land out of landfill) and most can have their perimeters traversed before finishing a pre-dinner pina colada. But the grand-biddy of them all is Coca Palm Kudahithi at a mere 5,600 square metres (140 metres long and 40 metres wide – not much larger than a foot ball pitch). With a proportionately small number of rooms – 7 villas – it is the closest thing to your own secluded deserted island with a palm tree on it.
Most Maldivian islands have even tinier islands nearby for day excursions and all have shallow waters to wade or snorkel through, but Rihiveli Beach has a nearly deserted island that is a water stroll away.
“Just 400 metres from your holiday home are Sunrise Island and Birds Island, which you can easily reach on foot. Unmarred by development, they are cloaked in verdant foliage and complemented by lovely beaches”
“We have access to Sunrise Island that you can easily reach on foot where we can have BBQ at lunch (known as ‘Picnic Island’), the inclusive package we offer and the stunning and peaceful Lagoon we have at our disposal”